Thursday, 12 September 2013

We have moved!

Hello, our Blog has moved to here:


Please come and see us at the new site for up to date news, reviews, competitions and more!

Thanks very much!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

We're Going On A Bear Hunt Competition!


We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
LYRIC THEATRE, Shaftesbury Ave
Box Office 0844 412 4661

We're going to the WEST END
We're going to see a Bear Hunt
What a beautiful play!
We're not scared....

To Celebrate we’ve got Family One family ticket (admits 4)
 to give away.
Valid for any performance from September 1st to September 8th.

Michael Rosen’s award-winning book We’re Going On A Bear Hunt is brought vividly and noisily to the stage in director Sally Cookson’s fun-filled adaptation set to Benji Bower’s versatile lively score.

Join our intrepid family of adventurers on their quest to find a bear; as they wade through gigantic swishy swashy grass, the splishy splashy river and thick oozy, squelchy mud!  With catchy songs, interactive scenes and plenty of hands-on adventure – plus a few special surprises along the way! Adapted from the picture book written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

Watch the official trailer online at

For children aged 3 and above.  Running time: Approx. 55 minutes

“ingenious” DAILY MAIL
“A fun-filled frolic”  GUARDIAN
“Quite simply, the best family show I’ve seen”  SKY ARTS

Uh-Oh! For your chance to win email your answer to the following question to by 4pm on Friday 30th August 2013.


Who wrote the book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Good Luck!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

World of Stories Summer Reading Competition

Enter our Summer Holiday Reading Quiz for a chance to win a set of twelve Vintage Children’s Classics. Starting from now until the 9th September 2013, read as many books as you can from our list, and see if you can finish our quiz to win a book for every month of the year. Don’t worry if you get stuck, we’re happy to help in store!
For bonus prizes send us a review of your favourite books on the list and at the end of the summer holidays, we’ll post some of the best reviews on our website. Get writing, we’d love to hear what you think!
Hand in your quiz and any book reviews by the 9th of September 2013 at Blackwell’s Charing Cross Road or email us at


  1. How does Huckleberry Finn escape from the cabin his father keeps him in?
  2. What is the name of Black Beauty's mother?
  3. What is the favourite phrase of the parrot in Treasure Island?
  4. Who found the treasure in Swallows and Amazons?
  5. How does Emil prove the stolen bank notes are his?
  6. Who shows Mary the door to the secret garden?
  7. What does Anne of Green Gables wish she was called?
  8. What is the name of the leader of the wolf pack in The Jungle Book?
  9. Why does Bruno have his head shaved in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas?
  10. At the beginning of The Wind in the Willows what is Mole doing before he leaves his house?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Sputnik Sweetheart

"Norwegian Wood" was my first Murakami novel and also the first book that I read written by a Japanese author.
Something in his style of writing grabbed me since the beginning so I decided to choose something else by him.
At first sight, Sputnik Sweetheart seems just another ordinary story about a love triangle but soon, you will discover the strong intensity of all its characters.
It is narrated in the first person by "K", whose name we never know. In spite of this, the main character is Sumire, a young Japanese girl who is a lover of classical music and dreams of becoming a great writer. Her entire life taken an unexpected turn when she meets Miu, a Korean pianist and a wine importer, and begins to work for her as a personal assistant.
Both start a journey around Europe and finally, they end up on a little Greek island where strange things happen.
The author uses this setting to introduce situations in connection with the Sci-Fi. This mix between the real and the surreal transports you to another world in a few parts of the book.
In this context Murakami talks about daily life in Tokyo, solitude, passionate behaviours and above all,unrequited love.
The thing I love most about him is his way of describing feelings, which makes you feel so identified with the characters that you are unable to stop reading!


Friday, 9 August 2013

Something for the Weekend - Shooting an Elephant - Orwell

                     Shooting an Elephant: And Other Essays – George Orwell

Another of those authors that sits on the “I really should read that some day” list for most, George Orwell's essays are often overlooked in favour of his fiction due to their resounding placements at the heart of a swathe of modern culture. Nineteen Eighty-Four can be referenced time and time again in the age of “Big Brother”, and it is the familiarity of both the content and Orwell's style that keeps the sales of his novels up today. But Orwell's style of a smooth but invigorating punch is best exemplified, for me, in his essays; and Shooting an Elephant is by far my favourite collection of them.

Born in India in 1903 as Eric Arthur Blair, Orwell's family settled in England a year later where,  from the age of 8, he attended St. Cyprian's boarding school. It was his experiences at this school that would later construct the essay Such, Such Were the Joys. Orwell headed back to India in 1922 to join the Imperial Police, his time here leading him to write both A Hanging as well as the headline piece of this collection. Shooting an Elephant presents Orwell's feelings towards Imperialism claiming that he is 'all for the Burmese and all against the British', going on to say that 'feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you can catch him off duty.' This essay is a great introduction to Orwell's constant battle between his awareness and curiosity towards internationalist progression and his great sense of patriotism, the latter which can be seen running high in essays such as Some Thoughts on the Common
Toad and In Defence of English Cooking.

For those that have already journeyed through some of Orwell's biographical pieces, this collection would be a perfect bridge in to his essays as there can be references found to these other works throughout. Looking back on the Spanish War is a clear nod to Homage to Catalonia, bringing a bitter and intense reflection of the bright hopes and cynical betrayals of that chaotic episode. As well as this, The Spike almost summarises certain chapters of Down and Out in Paris and London: Orwell's first published title that happened to originally be released as fiction, my favourite of his “non-essay” works, and another book that I would highly recommend to all.

My personal favourites within this collection however are as such because of the strong familiarity that I personally hold with all four of them, and if nothing else I recommend this book to all for these essays alone. Why I Write and particularly Confessions of a Book Reviewer give bravely honest accounts of Orwell's writing habits that would have required a brutal self-reflective jaunt through his own mind. The third of these four is Books vs. Cigarettes, a pocket version of which is always kept handy to lend out to the people around me that insist I should drop the addictive habit of reading and pick up a similarly addictive habit of smoking. One read of this essay and most give up their efforts and leave me in peace with my nose buried in the crease of another of Orwell's titles (that's what will happen when you come and buy this: you'll be returning for the rest of his back catalogue). My favourite of all though has to be Bookshop Memories, this essay repeatedly makes me giggle as it reads like a biographical account of my working days here at Blackwell's, pick it up and you'll soon see why.


Buy it here

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Stop Watching Star Wars! - A guest blog by Gavin Smith

Stop Watching Star Wars!*

(*In which a struggling science fiction author commits career suicide.)

I’m perfectly serious. Yes that means you at the back.  And Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica, and Firefly (“Not Firefly!” I hear you cry.  “But poor Firefly, murdered before its time, like a baby Bambi kicked to death by a cruel studio exec.  How could they do that to poor, multi-millionaire Joss Whedon, forcing him to go onto other more successful projects like that!”  I know, I’m a monster, right?). I want none of your Blake’s 7 nonsense either.  You need to stop watching them, stop buying their boxed sets, stop showing the slightest bit of interest in any of them.  (For the purpose of this blog I will not be talking about Doctor Who, largely because I don’t want to be burnt in effigy, or indeed person, in the Charing Cross Road.)

One of the best ways to get booed at a Science Fiction convention is to publicly state that you don’t like Star Wars.  Well, I don’t like Star Wars.  I have numerous excellent reasons why I don’t like Star Wars, and most of these are designed to upset my fellow geeks late at night at conventions. (This can result in urban fantasy books being flung at my head.  Those books that you get given at conventions, apparently they’re not actually books, they’re ammunition.  Incidentally if you do throw a book at someone at a convention and get into trouble, the best way to get out of trouble is to repeat the following: “Stephen Deas made me do it!”)

    Anyway what was I talking about?  (I am not a natural blogger.)  Oh yes, Star Wars.  I liked it as a child but as I grew up the flaws in the films became more apparent to me and I lost interest. 
Star Trek, on the other hand, I’m quite fond of.  (I would just like to point out that this isn’t an excuse to involve me in the fan-based football hooligan style violence that is sweeping conventions at the moment.  I don’t like any media enough to shiv someone.)  I have no strong opinion about BSG, but I’m very fond of Firefly.

We still all need to stop watching them and here’s why:  the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises dominate the sub-genre of space opera on television and in the cinema.  This is in part because movies and television series cost a lot of money to make and the companies that produce them like to know that when they make something that there is already an audience waiting to watch it, and by watch I mean pay for.

“So?”  I hear you cry.  “They are good, we like them.”  Well fine, so do I largely (except Star Wars, did I mention that Star Wars is rubbish?).  Here’s the problem.  Star Wars is 36 years old (and arguably took its direction from science fantasy much older than that). The first episode of Star Trek aired in 1966. Space opera has moved on significantly in the last three-to-four decades.
    “So?” I hear you cry again.  “They may be old but we still like them.  Old does not mean bad, and new does not mean good.”  And you would be right, but I have a dream!
I dream of a parallel world where HBO has lavished as much time and love on an adaption of Peter Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy as they did on Game of Thrones.  (This is the reason I can sometimes be seen outside HBO headquarters waving a placard with the words: “Living ships are at least as cool as incest!” on it.)

    A world where Iain M. Banks’s Consider Phlebas, which is many things as a book but one of them is certainly a rip-roaring space pirate adventure, has just kicked off the beginning of the Culture franchise (I have come to despise the word franchise, and the word build - but that’s another story.  On a positive note I love the word Domino) and where Al Reynold’s Revelation Space has done similar for that author’s work.  
I become positively erect when I think about David Fincher making an adaption of M. John Harrison’s Light (Not read Light?  Get thee to a bookshop!), or Ridley Scott, despite his more recent disappointing works, spending as much time and attention on an adaption of Hannu Rajaniemi’s the Quantum Thief as he did with Blade Runner.  That film which would blow your mind, though perhaps Jodorowsky would be a better director for such a project (I would slightly fear such a film).

    “Well yes,” I hear you say, those of you who are still here reading this, as I suspect that most of you stopped when I committed the cardinal SFF sin and said I didn’t like Star Wars (How does the emperor look in his new clothes?)  (I’m such a dangerous iconoclast, and so clever.)  “But why can’t we have both!” you scream with the true exuberance of a fan that makes me love you all.  Because if you have a lot of money to invest in a film or TV series, why would you risk it on trying something new when you have a guaranteed return on trotting out the same old thing?

See, literary science fiction/space opera have moved on a great deal since Star Trek and Star Wars were envisioned.  Glancing at the summer blockbusters this year it would be easy to believe that science fiction is the dominant form of media on the planet (something sadly not reflected in book sales), but room needs to be made for some of the new ideas that have appeared in the last thirty or so years in books, to appear on
our screens.  This will not happen unless people stop paying money to watch rehashes and remakes of ideas that, if we’re honest, have seen better days.  This will not happen unless we vote with our wallets.

    There is hope.  There are non-franchise, big budget films on the horizon like Nolan’s Interstellar. I have high hopes for Elysium (and indeed Neill Blomkamp in general), and from the world of literary science fiction there’s All You Need is Kill, and Ender’s Game (Oh yes I did!).

But if I’m being honest I rather enjoyed Star Trek: Into Darkness. Like the rest of you I pine for Firefly, and look forward to a remake of Blake’s 7 (Incidentally, if whomever is making that is looking for a script writer I am available.  What!?  I’m just saying.) With a sense of self loathing and the unpleasant taste of mouse semen in my mouth I’ll probably go and see the next satanic Star Wars film (Star Wars is still shit though, have I mentioned that?) and thus I destroy my own dream in a flurry of bad prose.

(Gavin Smith is the angry and bitter writer of the science fiction novels Veteran, War in Heaven and Age of Scorpio, and the short story collection Crysis: Escalation.  He has been banned from Eurodisney for attacking the cartoon characters and has no idea why he appeared to be channelling Stephen Fry during parts of the above blog as he’s much more a Snake Plissken kind of guy.)

Follow him on twitter here

Friday, 2 August 2013

Something for the Weekend - The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists

This weeks 'Something for the Weekend' is,

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe.

I'm a bit annoyed that I only just read this (I literally finished it on the bus yesterday). I saw the film, I enjoyed the film, I knew it was based on a book, I work in a bookshop. But as you know the 'to read' list is long & plentiful. Well, it was worth the wait.

This is a silly book. If you do not have a childish sense of humour then stop reading. It's a shade darker than the film (more death) but kids would still absolutely love it. Indeed I wish I could have read this when I was at school.

Plot? Oh, the Pirates run into Darwin & agree to help him free his brother who is being held hostage. No spoilers here as to why; it's part of the fun. Fun being the operative word here, the whole thing is HUGE fun from start to finish. My only complaint is that it's too short, luckily there are another four adventures for me to enjoy.

It reminded me of Python, Milligan even a touch of Douglas Adams, all good! But more than those eminent humorist's it I found it very reminiscent of John Antrobus, sadly that may not mean much to you. Antrobus (a contemporary of Milliagan) wrote the brilliant 'Boy with illuminated measles' & 'Help I'm a prisoner in a toothbrush factory'. Both hilarious & both sadly out of print - seek them out!

So Gideon Defoe 'as good as John Antrobus' - you can put that on the next one Mr Defoe.


Buy it here


Thursday, 25 July 2013

'The Sum of the Parts' A Guest Blog by A J Dalton

The Sum of the Parts by A J Dalton

When I’m doing a signing event, one of the most common questions I get asked is ‘what do you think of e-books and e-readers?’ Well, when you’re selling a signed hard copy to someone, you have to be fairly pro-hard copy, don’t you? However, there’s also the reality for the author that they get 25-70% royalty on the e-book (depending on if it’s self-published or not), whereas they only get a paltry 7.5-10% on the hard copy (not enough to buy cat food). Why such a difference? Well, with the e-book, there’s no need to pay the book shop a hefty percentage (at least 35%), no production cost, no distribution cost, no rent for premises, no air-con bills, no shop staff to pay and (drumroll) hardly a need for a publisher (and their myriad staff)!

Okay, let’s slow it down before I start getting hate mail from diehard fans of hard copy books, and book shops, and publishers... in fact, the entire book industry except other authors and e-geeks. So, a hard copy book has no real competition. It is unique unto itself. It can be read in more places than an e-reader, I would argue. I like to read in the bath, and I just wouldn’t want to take an e-reader there (unless I wanted to electrocute myself). As a physical object, the hard copy book also has a ‘living archaeology’ (my own term, but I put it in apostrophes because I know it’s a bit poncy and self-indulgent). We know if the book’s been read before. It has a particular smell. Sometimes it’s signed by the author. It has a feel, a shape, something that demands accommodation... something that is significant. On a shelf with other books, it says everything about you. When people visit your home (even if it’s just a cleaner or burglar), they will glean something about you from the physical books you have selected for your physical shelf. Through physical books, you express yourself. It’s art, not a science. Hard copy books are usable objects of art. They are artefacts.

Why bother going to see Lord Byron’s poems in the original? So that you can see the graphology of his handwriting, and see the stains from the bottom of the wine glass that he’d put down on the paper on which he was composing. You begin to glimpse the state of mind of the genius. It transports you. It is so much more than typed words on a non-physical page.

All that being said, what’s the argument for e-books? Well, like an MP3 player meaning you don’t need racks of CDs in your house anymore (you’ve given them all to charity shops), an e-reader means you no longer need to maintain the health and safety hazard of teetering piles of books in your home. In these austere times, less is more. E-books are cheaper. When it comes to holidays, airport baggage allowance means that an e-reader can reach places the latest hardback from A J Dalton cannot.

So where does that leave us? As an author, let me give you a particular perspective. I published Knight of Ages as an e-book only. To date, I’ve sold all of a dozen copies, despite it being my favourite book of all those I’ve written (What? Better than Necromancer’s Gambit? Gateway of the Saviours, even? Yes, even those.) What gives? There’s just something lacking when it comes to a work of literature that is e-book only. Something essential just isn’t there. Something vital. Some ingredient that hasn’t got to do with the words. It’s got something to do with graphology, with wine stains, with the physical. After all, our souls are not virtual. Still, I could be wrong.

A J Dalton is an international author with Gollancz. He has published five novels to date, including the best-selling Necromancer’s Gambit and Empire of the Saviours (longlisted for the David Gemmell Legend Award). There's plenty of writing advice on his website at & follow him on twitter @AJDalton1

Friday, 19 July 2013

Something for the weekend - The Bronze Horseman

I read The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons a couple of weeks ago because it was given to me by a friend for Christmas because it is his favourite book. As soon as I started it, I regretted leaving it so long before I gave it a go. I was  little put off by the size - it's 650 pages - but it's so gripping, that you don't feel like you're reading a massive tome!

The book starts on the day the Second World War breaks out in the USSR, which is also the day when 17-year-old Tatiana meets 22-year-old Red Soldier Alexander. She has been sent out to buy food but buys herself an ice cream instead and attracts Alexander's attention because in all the chaos of the day, she is calmly sitting on a bench eating ice cream. This is the beginning of a turbulent and epic romance. Things do not come easily for this couple, with a love triangle, a secret that could get them both killed and the Siege of Leningrad to contend with. I didn't really know anything about the Siege of Leningrad before I read this book, but Simons really gives you an idea of what it was like that first Winter with no food and no way out of the city. It is estimated that between 700 and 1000 Leningrad citizens died every day in January and February 1942 and Simons does not shy away from this fact, with hardship and death becoming common place for the characters.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot, because as well as being a romance, this book is a thriller about how to survive in the extreme world of Stalin's Russia, which was even worse during wartime. For example, any Russian soldier who was taken prisoner during World War 2, when finally returned home, would be sentenced to at least 10 years in a GULAG for betraying their country by being taken prisoner - the idea was to die before that happened. There is quite a lot of description of the Soviet role in World War 2, because of Alexander being a front-line soldier, and I found that really interesting, because again, I didn't really know much about it.

The great thing about this gripping, fascinating novel, is that it's the first in the trilogy - so if you get to the end and like me, have to know what happens to Tatiana and Alexander next, you can read books 2 and 3 (Tatiana and Alexander and The Summer Garden). Also, don't be put off by the covers - they're not just romances, there's so much more to them!


Tuesday, 16 July 2013


Crowds queue to meet Anthony Horowitz

The Get Reading stage in Trafalgar Square. 

Saturday saw Trafalgar Square taken over by the first ever Get London Reading Festival, sponsored by The Evening Standard and Nook, as part of a campaign to promote literacy and the joys of reading to children. Thousands of people came out on one of the hottest days of the year to listen to readings by writers, actors and other famous faces including Anne Fine, Hugh Grant and Princess Beatrice. As well as readings there was face painting, balloon modelling, a parade of the Warhorse puppet from the west end show and, rather incongruously, a chap wandering around in a Darth Vader costume.

Over in the Nook Signing Tent we ran 6 hours of author signings including Anthony Horowitz, Steve Cole and Sally Gardner. A particular highlight was a group of school girls to whom Malorie Blackman was a rock star; their excitement and emotion at getting to meet her was amazing to see. So too was the kindness of Anne Fine who had to dash off from her signing to go on stage but returned afterwards to make sure none of her readers missed out.

As well as the signings we helped a team from Nook demonstrate their range of e-readers and tablets, most of which are available in store now.

Huge thanks must go to my colleagues Bea, Laura, Luke and Marianna. They worked tirelessly on what was a very long, very hot, but ultimately very rewarding day.

Lachlan Mackinnon

Competiton time - Win a signed a copy of The Crimson Shield!

 Win a signed copy of 'The Crimson Shield'

That's right thanks to Gollancz I have 3 signed copies of Nathan Hawke's 'The Crimson Shield' to give away! For a chance to win simply email with 'The Crimson Shield' in the subject line before 12.00pm on Monday 22nd of July. I will then choose 3 winners at random & send you your free, signed copy! Please include your name & address - UK only please.

To wet your appetite you can find a short story by Nathan Hawke below this post. Or visit his website

Thanks & good luck!!


Thursday, 11 July 2013

Gamebooks – not just for geeks by Michael J. Ward

A great big thank you to Michael J.Ward for this guest blog spot! 
His new book The Heart of Fire is out now. Visit his website at

I’ll always remember my first book signing. As an author I guess it goes without saying that I have a hyperactive imagination, so my visions for how this was going to play out were lofty to say the least. I was unflappable in my belief that this would be my next grand step on my march to literary glory.

And yet, as I approached the lucky bookstore, niggling doubts started to enter my mind. No queues outside, trailing around the block. No police cordon. There wasn’t even a helicopter circling overhead. Could this be right?

I entered the bookstore, preparing myself for the screams and the rush of fans. Silence. Just an elderly lady flicking through an Alan Titchmarsh, and a couple of sniggering teenagers loitering around the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ stand. I couldn’t even see my signing table or the giant banners that proclaimed my coming. Hopes dwindled as I was led to the back of the shop, to a low table set up in a very dark corner. It even had cobwebs and what appeared to be the skeletal remains of the previous author. The table had a snakes and ladders board on it. And the chair was a puffy cushion.

The children’s corner. Decked up for Halloween. And I felt like a prize pumpkin.

My immediate crowd were screaming babies and toddlers, and beleaguered mums wrestling with books, bags and prams – casting a yearning eye towards the nearby Costa Coffee. One child took pity on me and grabbed one of my bookmarks. Then proceeded to try and take the whole pile that had cost me fifty squillion pounds to have printed. I awkwardly removed the said items from the child’s hands, careful not to insight tears or a potential law suit.

Yup, this was the reality. And I had to tell myself, ‘Mike, you’re here to sell – and they ain’t gonna come to you.’ That’s when I activated Terminator-mode, my scanners sweeping across the store to obtain lock-on with a target. It was time to find the (soon to be) DestinyQuest fans. With book in hand, I extracted my knees from beneath the table, gave a warning glare to the child who was edging back towards my bookmarks, and then went on the hunt.

As I stalked the shelves, probably looking like some slightly deranged Frank Spencer, the true realisation dawned on me. Who was a typical DestinyQuest fan? You see, DestinyQuest is not like your ordinary fantasy novel. It is an interactive gamebook – where you take on the mantle of a hero and guide them through the story, making their choices, fighting their battles (yes, dice are involved – we’re going retro here) and deciding the outcome. It was influenced by my love and obsession with computer games, particularly online role-playing games like World of Warcraft. I wanted people to take a break from their screens and get back to the roots of gaming – rolling dice and imagining the action for themselves.

I’ll be honest. To my shame, I started with the stereotypes. So I turned on my geek-radar and headed to the Manga area. The cool kids there had a kind of geek chic going on. This would be good – an easy sell. They listened to my spiel and laughed. Okay. Need to work on the sales pitch. Next, a sizeable fellow with an impressively large beard. He had to be a closet geek. No, he was a history professor and not un-surprisingly, World of Warcraft did not factor on his curriculum. Okay, let’s stop judging on appearance. It was time for the cunning Plan B.

In the absence of a Plan B, I went straight for C instead. Approach everyone and anyone, and have no shame. You’re here to sell. And so, I did. Forget Frank Spencer, now I was a homing missile and nothing would steer me off course. Whoever stepped into my path would be the next target. And so I ended up face to face with that elderly lady. I glanced at the Alan Titchmarsh and knew this was going to be an uphill struggle. But I pushed on regardless. When I finished there was a heavy silence. Her expression was unreadable, a slight frown crinkling her eyes. A firm ‘no’ was coming – or worse, she was trying to remember which pocket she had put the mace spray….

Turns out she bought four copies for her grandchildren (in their early teens). Next it was a couple in their fifties who still played Dungeons & Dungeons every Friday night. A few mums bought them as presents. A fellow author bought one because he loved the concept.

I approached people who I never expected would entertain the idea of a ‘gamebook’ and their eyes would light up when I showed them the full-colour maps (difficult not to stroke and make cooing noises) and explained how the idea worked.

Fathers bought it for their sons (with a knowing wink that said ‘No, this is really for me.’). A teacher bought ten as prizes for her school. Thirty-somethings (like myself at the time) immediately recognised the format and remembered back to the ‘Choose your own’ adventure books they played as kids. They bought it too.

By the afternoon I had sold out of books. And I don’t think I sold a single one to anyone who I would have termed a traditional “geek” – the type that the Daily Mail would no doubt label a ‘gamebooker’. I was shamefully guilty of this too, but my eyes were opened that day. Trying to pigeonhole the books is impossible. I have a readership from 9 to 90. Perhaps that is why I was originally put in the children’s area through no fault of the staff – they saw the word ‘gamebook’ and assumed it was just for kids.

So, I didn’t get the queues or the police escort – or even a single screaming fan, but I did leave the bookstore with a huge smile on my face. I enjoyed the face-to-face selling, and talking about my work to such a wide breadth of people – of all ages and backgrounds.

So, if you end up coming across a DestinyQuest book (or get approached by a Frank Spencer look-alike who asks you if you’ve heard of ‘World of Warcraft’) – don’t judge on appearance. Take a closer look. You might be surprised.


Monday, 8 July 2013

Guest Blog - The Fateguard by Nathan Hawke

Introduction by Nathan Hawke

The Crimson Shield (published by Gollancz on the 11th July) is the story of Gallow, a warrior who came across the seas years ago with a host led by the dreaded Corvin Screambreaker, the Nightmare of the North. While most of his kin eventually returned home, Gallow stayed and settled, living a quiet life obscurity until. . . but that's another story, the story of the Crimson Shield itself. For those of you familiar with the fantasy genre, the Crimson Shield aims, for better or worse, to echo the likes of David Gemmell and Robert E Howard. For those of less familiar, imagine vikings and saxons with just a touch of the supernatural.

In this story, a much younger Gallow has been enticed to break into a holy temple to steal a look at the legendary Crimson Shield. Of the men with him, Medrin will one day be a prince of his people and as for Beyard . . . but that too is for another story.

For more stories of Gallow, the Crimson Shield and other characters in their pasts, feel welcome to visit the interactive story map at

4 – The Fateguard
Location – Palace of the Eyes of Time

The door shuddered again. “Open!”
    Beyard turned. “Shall we take our punishment like men then?” But Medrin was already at the window. He vanished down the rope and that was that. Gone. Craven bastard.
    “Open this door!” The roar from outside was furious this time. The other Lhosir, the blacksmith's lad Gallow, pushed an empty chest across the threshold and sat on it. Beyard sat beside him, wedging the door shut. “Open up! Beardless cowards!”
    Beyard spat. He cast a grin at Gallow. “Shall we cast the runes together while we give our noble lord a minute to make good his escape. I dare say we can hold them here for hours if needs be, but another minute or so should do it.” He glanced over his shoulder as the door shook again. “My dead grandmother could push harder,” he yelled. “Go away and find some friends with some strength in their arms. I can give you my word we'll wait if that helps!”
A roar of rage answered. The door groaned as whoever was on the other side threw themselves at it. “Whoever you are in there, I know there's more than one of you. I'll strangle you with each others guts!”
    “Only after I take out yours so I can teach you how to tie proper knots!” When everything fell quiet, Beyard pressed his ear to the door. There were footsteps and then more voices and he leaned away just in time before the the door shook hard. Two men now, and this time they forced it open a crack. An arm reached around. Beyard bit it and it withdrew with a howl. The shouts from outside gathered force, but then they fell silent. A low gravelly voice spoke instead. “Give me your axe.”
    Fateguard, and for all his bravado, Beyard felt a chill. He gritted his teeth against the fear. “I reckon we've given him long enough now, don't you?”
    Gallow nodded. “You go first. I'll hold them.”
    Beyard looked at him. Not that either of them could see much in the dark, but they'd been friends for long enough that they didn't really need to see each others' faces any more. “Truth is, my friend, whoever goes last gets caught. You know this.”
“They won't catch me.” But they probably would. And if it came to a fight, well then they could both handle themselves well enough but that was hardly much use when you were challenged by an ironskin. He glared viciously at the window. Most likely whoever stayed would lose his hand for being a thief and spend the rest of his life wishing he'd been hanged.
    “Yes they will.” The door shuddered and the axe struck its first blow. “My father will pay blood money if that's what it comes to. Yours can't. Go.”
    Gallow hesitated. “Piss poor gang of thieves we turned out to be.”
    Beyard chuckled. “Piss poor.”
    Gallow nodded. He clasped Beyard's shoulder and squeezed and then pushed off from the door and bolted for the window, throwing himself through the space between them as fast as he could. He almost fell out head first and then he had the rope, catching himself, and that was the last Beyard saw of him.
    “I will not forget,” he whispered to the moon and then he lunged
for window himself as the door burst open. Men sprawled in, lit by torches from behind, tumbling over the chest and all falling to the floor and he was half out of the window and so very close to being free when a hand clamped onto his ankle. His first kick didn't break him loose. Another hand grabbed him, and after that he stopped struggling. Maybe the other two would get away, maybe not.

They did. He slowly realised it when the Fateguard and the priests kept asking him over and over who else had come to steal their precious Crimson Shield. They didn't even know how many had been in Beyard's gang, but nothing he could say would make them believe that he and the others had only come for a look, merely to see the forbidden shield that even Corvin the Crow couldn't be allowed to carry. No, they'd come to steal it, the priests were certain and wouldn't be swayed because they'd seen the signs in the sky and omens in the entrails of dead pigs. There was a thief coming, and here he was, and so there would be consequences, and if Beyard's father ever offered to pay blood money to save his son then Beyard never heard of it.

The frost-wind of the frozen north howled over black stone crags draped and spattered with snow. It moaned and screamed like the ghosts of the ever-hungry dead and wailed like the widows they left behind. Birthed by ice-wraiths and abandoned it was a cruel wind, heartless and without mercy, a wind that flayed any thought of kindness. The sun hung low on the horizon, weak and pale and muted. Here at the far end of the world even a midsummer morning offered only ice and storms. Mountains as old as time grew in this place. Pitiless cliffs forged at the very beginning, hard as iron and bitter as juniper. No place for men, no place for life, no place for light, and yet etched somehow into this shattered landscape wound a road, steep and hostile and paved with ice. It wound among them, picking its way from the ice-choked sea as though stalking some unseen prey, hidden as best it could from that hate-filled wind; but here and there it had no choice but to break its cover to rise towards its destination. To their delight the snow and the wind found it, winkled it out of its hiding and lashed it without remorse. The air filled with their frenzy to bury it, this intruder made by men.
    Along its whole length, one thing alone travelled this road. A heavy wagon of old weathered wood and fat sausage-fingers of rust pulled by creatures that might once have carried the idea of a unicorn at their heart, but had been birthed by a vision burned and blackened and twisted. They were not alive and their hoof-beats rang on the icy road like cold black iron, four horned nightmares driving ever onward, ever upward, eager now as the end approached. They threw their burden against the howling wind, rocking from side to side, groaning wood and creaking metal hurled against the tireless icy teeth of the storm. They devoured the remorseless road and defied the savage wind until they came to a place where the mountains had been sheered by some great hand and nothing remained but a cavernous void and falling snow; and there they stopped beside an iron gate that might have swallowed a ship, and waited. They stamped their feet but no steamy breath came with their snorts for they were dead things, and even the snow and the stone shivered at their cold. In this landscape, life stopped at the edge of the sea, at the ship that even now nudged its way away from the ice floes to the shore – stopped but for the single soul inside the wagon, a chained main, huddled and freezing, his life flickering and sputtering and close to its end.
    A shadow shifted from the great iron gate to the wagon and crept inside. It spoke a word, and its whisper was like a snake across parched desert sand. It held out a crown of black iron. You didn't escape from monsters who could reach through time and space. Not once they knew who you were.
    “Beyard,” it said, and put the iron crown forever over his head.
    “I will not forget.” He clung to it and held it in his heart and spoke it out, over and over. “I will not forget.”

There were consequences for the others as well, not that Beyard heard of them until long years had passed. A lost coif – we were playing at fighting the Marroc father and it fell down the well – cost the smith's son an extra year of working in the forge before his father let him cross the sea to join the Screambreaker's war band conquering the Marroc. Medrin crossed sooner and almost died in his first battle, and when he came back half a year later, he was as weak as a newborn and it was years before he was strong again. The Crimson Shield itself left on the same ship that carried Beyard. It rested a while on the Fortress of the Fates on the island of Brek, but other thieves came before it had even had time to gather dust, the real thieves of all the omens. But whoever they were, these other thieves fell out before they even touched land and both they and the shield sank to the bottom of the sea.
    And slowly both it and Beyard were forgotten.

Please follow our Twitter @Blackwellcxr for news of a competition to win a signed copy of  'The Crimson Shield'

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Charing Cross Road Fest 2013

Last weekend saw the second Charing Cross Road Fest and it was a roaring success! Foyles and Blackwell's took the lead again, but there were more shops involved this year and more of them held their own events, including a zine launch at Quinto and Francis Edwards, an event on Britishness at Charing Cross Road Library and an art book launch at Koenig Books.

In Blackwell's we kicked the weekend off with Gollancz authors Christopher Priest and Simon Ings. Ings,The Adjacent and about his previous books, including probably his most famous - The Prestige, which he thought was an un-filmable book! The Adjacent is about Tibor Tarent, a freelance photographer, who is recalled to Britain from Anatolia where his wife Melanie has been killed by insurgent militia. IRGB is a nation living in the aftermath of a bizarre and terrifying terrorist atrocity - hundreds of thousands were wiped out when a vast triangle of west London was instantly annihilated. The authorities think the terrorist attack and the death of Tarent's wife are somehow connected. A century earlier, a stage magician is sent to the Western Front on a secret mission to render British reconnaissance aircraft invisible to the enemy. It is a truly brilliant novel and Priest opened the festival with a big crowd and a long signing queue.
author and editor of Arc magazine, interviewed Priest about his new book,

Later in the afternoon we had a ukulele workshop with ukulele magician Ian Lawrence, who had a very attentive audience learning some simple tunes and chords. We had a free ukulele to give away, thanks to our friends at John Wiley and it was lovely to see an excited 5-year-old girl present with her very own ukulele! Then we had Martin Bannister, who talked about writing and read from his debut novel A Map of Nowhere in his very first bookshop event.  A Map of Nowhere is a touching novel about mental illness, family and the secrets we all keep event from those closest to us. Miranda sawyer said it is ‘a touching, memorable book that makes us look at human secrets and realise that they reveal as much as they hide. Oh, and it’s funny too.’

The final shop event for us on the Saturday was our Best Fictional Detective Balloon Debate, featuring Barry Forshaw, Emelyne Godfrey, Sara Sheridan and Nicola Upson. Barry's choice of Sherlock Holmes came top in our pre-debate vote and I think we all thought he was sure to win, but in a shock twist in the half-time vote where 2 people were kicked out of the balloon, Holmes was out. As was Emelyne's choice of Judith Lee, a heroine written by Richard Marsh who was hugely popular in his day, but has been slightly forgotten now. She was described as 'the female Sherlock Holmes' and could read lips as well as being an expert in ju jitsu. So the second half of the debate saw Precious Ramotswe (fought for by Sara) and Alan Grant (fought for by Nicola), battle it out to be crowned 'the best fictional detective'. In the end it was Grant and Nicola who were victorious and we hope that a lot of the people on the audience have now picked up a Josephine Tey crime novel to read about Alan Grant's exploits.

After the epic literary pub quiz on the Saturday evening, Sunday was kicked off with a crafternoon, where people to drop in to paint, or do origami or sew. It was lovely to have a relaxing few hours of being creative and we hope we can repeat this event again in the future. Sunday afternoon saw our drama talk (well, we are in the West End), featuring On Man, Two Guvnors playwright Richard Bean talk to legendary theatre critic Benedict Nightingale about all things theatre and what inspires him as a playwright. After the successes of Toast, England People Very Nice, The Heretic and the incomparable One Man, Two Guvnors, Bean revealed that his next project is a play about the phone hacking scandal, so he is back to his political best.

The second Charing Cross Road fest built on the successes of the first and we again had a buzzy atmosphere in the shop, helped by the return of our Penguin Books Treasure Hunt, this time to win the top 20 Penguin Modern Classics and a competition to win 40 Vintage Children's Classics. We would like to thank everyone that helped make this year's festival a success - from all of the authors and publishers who came and arranged events, to all of our lovely customers to came to listen to some fascinating talks and support their local bookshops.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Something for the Weekend - The Sisters Brothers

As a short disclaimer before I begin I feel I should mention that my favourite author is Cormac McCarthy. This may go some way to explain why a review of Patrick DeWitt's excellent second novel has become hijacked by me gushing about how great McCarthy is. Mainly it's because when I read DeWitt I found them to be similar in their narrative choices, though their styles are very different. Cormac McCarthy is not the easiest of reads, and his novels are almost always dark, violent and disturbing. They are also beautiful, engrossing and often funny reads that are constructed with astounding attention to detail and characters that can terrify you and break your heart. Over the past three years or so, I have read everything the good man has written, and until he publishes another masterpiece I have been searching elsewhere for novels of the same strength.

Patrick DeWitt has proved an excellent place to start with his novel The Sisters Brothers. His story of Charles and Eli Sisters, the brothers that give the book its title, is endearing, funny, and often brutal. The pair are riding across America to find Hermann Kermit Warm, a man whom they have a contract to kill. During their journey, the gentler and more engaging Eli comes to question their occupation as contract killers and his relationship with his increasingly distant and violent brother. The prose is so smooth that you can glide through this novel as easily as if Eli were speaking to you across a desert campfire. He tells you jokes about his horse that he didn't want to name, but then recounts moments of human suffering that he and his brother have witnessed and in some cases caused. Set against the backdrop of the California Gold Rush, where men seem to be losing their heads around them, the brothers are forced to make a decision between personal initiative and the safety of following orders.

Even if a traditional Western is not your usual cup of tea, the character of Eli is enough to change your mind. He is honest, frank, and unwittingly amusing, and it is the construction of his character that causes you to become so invested in the fates of himself, his brother and their comrades. In the same way, Billy Parham of Cormac McCarthy's The Border Trilogy is instantly sympathetic and engaging. The story of him and his real and adopted brothers is devastating just as it is beautiful. McCarthy uses far denser prose in his novels, but Eli and Billy are similar in their moral struggles and their desires to find the best in people, even if they have witnessed the worst. Both authors are expert crafters of stories, and until McCarthy writes something new, I intend to work my way through DeWitt's back catalogue.


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Charing Cross Road Fest 2013

It's that time of year again when we work with Foyles to bring you the best programme of events for our Charing Cross Road Fest 2013. Due to the huge success of last year's festival,  it takes place over a whole weekend this year, on June 22nd and 23rd. We also have a revamped website at which is easier to navigate.

Highlights for this year so far include Terry Deary, Laura Dockrill, the writers of the new musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the chef from top Peruvian restaurant Ceviche in Foyles. We at Blackwell's are thrilled to be hosting Christopher Priest, a balloon debate to find the best fictional detective, a learn the ukulele session and our mammoth literary pub quiz in the evening at The Phoenix Artist Club.

The festival is designed to bring people back to our street and revive it as a cultural centre in London and celebrate the literary and musical history of Charing Cross Road and Denmark Street. There are more shops and businesses involved than last year and we hope that the Love Charing Cross Road movement will continue to grow.

The full details of all the events and how to book can be found on the website at

Friday, 31 May 2013

More Sherlock gifts - including Flip-Flops!

Just thought I would gather these together; more of our Sherlock range of goodies.

Including the famous Flip-Flops! 

 and the Moriar tea mouse mats (& 221b greetings cards)
The infamous apron.

Hope you like them, let us know!



Wednesday, 29 May 2013

We love Sherlock and so do you

  That's right we are a Sherlock loving shop. If you stand in our shop you are never more than six feet away from someone who loves Sherlock (fact... yes it is). So you can imagine our excitement when these beauties arrived! Here's a selection of just some of the Baker Street based bounty we have on board.

As you can see it's a mixture of traditional & modern as we love both.

So pop along & have a look. Or if you see something here you must have feel free to give us a ring & we can put it aside for you.

We have what you need to keep you going until Series 3, we understand!

We have flip flops - this is not a joke. No pictures though, you need some mystery...

Hip flask!  

Friday, 24 May 2013

Something for the weekend... The Art of Iphoneography

The Art of Iphoneography: a guide to mobile creativity

by Stephanie C Roberts.

Having just completed a three year degree course in digital photography, I find myself in a position where competing for photographic jobs is an extraordinarily difficult challenge, even with the degree under my belt. Now I'm not blaming anyone in particular for this, but in the current digital age we live in, I can actually blame everybody. Everyone is a photographer. Everyone either has a camera, or more commonly a mobile phone with a pretty nifty camera attached, and this means that at any point, and at any time, we can all call ourselves photographers.

Now, for some reason, I'm about to make things worse for myself, because I am about to recommend you a book that will help you turn yourself from an habitual snapper into a fully fledged iPhoneographer.

Stephanie Calabrese Roberts' book The Art of iPhoneography, now in its second edition, sets out to inspire and inform you on how to create better images using only your iPhone. Outlining a selection of must have apps, all of which that I have to agree with, the book shows you not only how to take stronger photographs, but also how to better edit and distribute them as you see fit. For inspiration to get you taking photos of anything other than your dinner, you can find a section that gives ideas for projects and photo-journals to keep your images developing. And if that doesn't get your fingers pressing the screen of your phone, then you can always flick through the examples of work included by professional iPhoneographers to see if yours can compete, some of which beggars belief that they were actually created using an iPhone.

Overall this well presented and fully informed book is a must have for anyone with a camera enabled phone, or even for professional photographers such as myself, just don't try and steal my clients with the amazing shots you'll start to produce.

One of my favourite iPhoneographers can be found here:

Buy it here


Friday, 10 May 2013

Something for the weekend.. And the Band Played On.

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts

Perhaps not something for one weekend, as this brick-like tome of over 600 pages has taken me several weeks to read, but it is such an important and fantastic achievement that anyone with an interest in HIV/AIDS and LGBT history should count it as a vital addition to their library.

One of the greatest joys of working in a bookshop is that virtually any gap in your knowledge or nerdy new obsession can be addressed by just having a wander along the shelves or a chat to well-read colleagues. So when I watched David France's 2012 documentary How to Survive a Plague and realised how little I knew about the history of AIDS, I decided it was time to read a book with a huge reputation within the canon of AIDS literature. I approached it slightly dutifully; one of those books you feel you should read but always found something else shorter or more uplifting to tempt you away. I was not expecting to become so immediately absorbed in the book that I resented anything coming between me and reading it, but that is precisely what happened.

Published in 1987, And the Band Played On is a work of investigative journalism that tells the story of (what were at the time) the earliest confirmed cases of AIDS in America in the late 1970s and the devastating spread of the disease throughout the 1980s. With a focus particularly on San Francisco, where Shilts worked as a journalist and where AIDS first struck hardest along with New York and Los Angeles, the book uses a pacy timeline to examine the responses of health departments, government officials, activists and individuals to the AIDS crisis. As the timeline ticks away the sense of AIDS as a looming, unchecked threat grows along with the realisation that the Reagan administration's apathy in the face of a 'gay cancer' is allowing the disease to kill thousands of people.

Shilts skillfully manages a range of institutional and personal responses to AIDS so that a cast of characters emerge to create a readable story out of a vast mass of information. There are doctors who were used to treating skin complaints and ended up becoming experts on Kaposi's Sarcoma, the clashes of ego among big name researchers, the fatal resistance by leaders of the blood banking industry to acknowledge that AIDS could be spread through transfusions and the men who formed the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City, educating themselves and others and raising money in the face of crushing indifference from the Mayor's office. The embattled scientists at the Centers for Disease Control offer a perfect microcosm of the shocking lack of interest in investigating AIDS: by 1984 it takes the CDC four months to secure $2.75 for new door handles for the lab working on AIDS-infected materials so that researchers don't have to touch doorknobs with contaminated gloves. At this point, Shilts tells us, over 2,000 Americans had already died and 2,615 others had been diagnosed.

As the dates flow past and the numbers of people dying rise, a sense of small-scale frustration turns to anger as those involved in the struggle come to the horrifying realisation that America does not seem to care about its citizens if they are gay, drug users giving birth to infected babies, haemophiliacs or Haitian immigrants. The idea that the media and the medical establishment will only show an interest once 'normal Americans' start to die is illustrated by Rock Hudson's announcement that he is dying of AIDS towards the end of the book, when suddenly the world's media become interested in an epidemic that has already killed thousands.

It seems wrong to say that this book reads like a thriller, when AIDS killed so many real people during the 1980s and continues to do so worldwide today. But its masterful juggling of so much information, at once scientific, political and personal, is so impressive that it really is hard to stop reading. The sense of dread and the simple wastefulness of the whole mess is weighty but not paralysing, spurring me on to read more and feel angrier with every page. But in between the rage and injustice of the story there are moments of hope and joy, from the tales of activist support networks that grew out of the misery to the bravery of men offering their dying bodies for research in the hope of curing others. At one point I looked up from this book and realised five hours had passed, leaving me with a kind of melancholy reading hangover as I left the 1980s behind. I don't think I've ever read non-fiction that has captured my imagination so fully and left me thinking about a book for so long afterwards.

Sarah T

Buy it here

Friday, 3 May 2013

Something for the weekend.. Middlesex & Tender is The Night.

This weeks 'Something for the weekend' is a double header... firstly with 'The Great Gatsby' about to hit the big screen again why not try one of F. Scott's other works?

Tender is the night - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Set in the French Riviera during the 1920s Fitzgerald's lesser know 'Tender is the night' embodies all the glamour and debauchery you'd expect from his writing - with a greater depth and poignancy; stemming from the parallels between the characters downfalls and his own life. This is my favourite of his novels.

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides

Spanning the lives of three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, Eugenide's epic family drama is truly just that - epic. Rarely have characters felt so real, even more rarely have I cared so much about what happens to them. Eugenide's  writing is both devastating and beautiful.

Buy it here

Reviews by Olivia.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Something for the weekend - Blink

This weeks 'Something for the weekend' is...


by Malcolm Gladwell

As you read along the first few lines of this post, taking in each word that forms the introductory sentences
of what is to follow, your brain is processing information in quantities and at speeds that you would find difficult to comprehend. Ironically it is your own brain processing the thoughts required to comprehend the work that it is doing, however that level of meta-thought is something that I'm just not prepared to deal with on a Friday.

One of the key things that you have already done up to this point is make a judgement, and a snap judgement at that; you judgemental little so-and-so you. Don't worry, you are forgiven. We all make decisions in the blink of an eye that we just can't help, and, more often than not, some that we don't even notice. Within two seconds you had probably only managed to read the first 25 words of this writing and had already decided whether you wanted to read on or not. Good decision so far I must add.

What Blink does, through Malcolm Gladwell's alluring narrative littered with intriguing factual anecdotes, is present some prime examples of the effects of these snap judgements. Starting with the correct instinct held by a handful of art experts working with the Getty Museum, and working through to the bad decisions made in a police shooting in the Bronx, Gladwell shows the full extent of the power that those first two seconds can hold.

What he argues however, is that these snap decisions can be trained, thus allowing our brains to process all the same information in the same short space of time to a more effective level. Just think (no pun intended) of all those snap judgements and decisions you have already made today. How much easier would it be to trust them if you knew you were thinking more effectively? Blink not only gets you thinking about the way you think, but it entertains and informs you through every chapter you absorb.

If you want to trust my snap judgement, buy this book: you'll be delighted.

Or just come in to Blackwell's, pick up the book, and let your brain make up its own mind.

Buy it here